Qur'an and the Bible

How the Qur’ān relates to the Bible

The Qur’ān identifies itself as a ‘book’ or a revelation similar to the Taurāt (Torah) that was given to Moses,[1] to the Zabūr (Psalms) that was given to David,[2] and to the Injīl (Gospel) that was given to Jesus.[3] There are 145 references to Moses in the Qur’ān, 16 to David, and 25 to Jesus.

Source material

The Qur’ān frequently uses biblical characters and their deeds as an important source of inspiration and truth: for example, Sūrah 11:25-49 (Noah), 69-83 (Abraham), 96-109 (Moses); 21:51-75 (Abraham and Lot), 76-93 (Noah, David, and Solomon); 27:15-44 (David, Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba); and 34:10-21 (David, Solomon, and the people of Sheba).


The Qur’ān expects its hearers to know about the characters and events of the Bible. For example, Sūrah 19:16 calls upon Muhammad to remember in the book the story of Mary, 19:41 the story of Abraham, 19:51 the story of Moses, 19:54 the story of Ishmael and 19:56. Furthermore, Sūrah 38:17-26 calls upon Muḥammad to ‘remember my servant David,’ 38:41-44 to ‘remember my servant Job’ and 38:45-48 to ‘remember my servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Ishmael and Ezekiel.’

How the Qur’ān derives material from the Bible

In all the above three relationships, the Qur’ān both witnesses to a popular understanding of the content of the Bible in Arabia before the advent of Islam and adds its own distinct interpretation of this content. Since it is extremely unlikely that the biblical text was available in Arabic in 7th-century CE Arabia, the Qur’ān is best understood as responding to Jewish and Christian traditions concerning the biblical text, rather than relating directly to the text itself. However, the Qur’ān did generate a new movement in the reception history of the Bible as subsequent generations of Muslim scholars sought to understand qur’ānic references to biblical characters and events by interacting with the biblical text.

Muslim reception history of the Bible

This can be understood as developing from a situation of dependence (in which the interpretation of the Qur’ān depended, in part, upon the interpretation of the biblical text) to a situation of independence (in which the interpretation of the Qur’ān determined the [Muslim] interpretation of the biblical text).

  1. Dependence

    In the first centuries of Islam, Muslim scholars sought to develop a set of reliable Muslim traditions (ḥadīth) about the biblical characters and events that appeared in the Qur’ān. In this task they consulted various Jewish and Christian sources and, especially, the opinions of Muslim converts. Reliable Muslim traditions were deemed to be those that had been (reputedly) received, remoulded, and taught by the first generations of Muslim believers.

  2. Independence

    After the ḥadīth traditions had been stabilised in the 9th century CE, Muslim scholars began to interact more critically with the biblical text. Elements in the Bible which differed from the Qur’ān or the ḥadīth began to be perceived as evidence of the corruption of the biblical text (taḥrif) by Jewish and Christian scribes. As a result, the Qur’ān became the arbiter of which biblical content had been corrupted and which still represented true revelation.

[1] See, for example, Sūrah 3:3, 48, 65, 93; 4:164; 5:44-48, 65-66, 110; 6:83-92; 7:157; 9:111; 11:12-17, 110-115; 21:48-50; and 61:6.
[2] See, for example, Sūrah 3:48; 4:163; 5:77-78; 6:83-90; and 17:53-55.
[3] See for example, Sūrah 3:48-52, 65; 5:44-48, 65-66, 110; 6:83-92; 7:157; 9:111; and 61:6.